SegaXtreme Cross-Platform FMV Competition

TrekkiesUnite118

Established Member
So a couple of us were discussing this in Discord and felt this could be a fun thing to do. The general idea is different devs will take the same source video files and encode them to the best of their ability to run on various different FMV capable consoles. So not only Saturn but also 3DO, PS1, N64, Sega Genesis/CD/32X, etc. are all welcome. The general goal would be to see how each console and it's different codec approaches stack up against each other. The competition effectively starts now and will end at a determined deadline (I was thinking 31st of January, 2022, but if people need more time we can extend it.)

Rules:
  • You must encode all the samples.
  • You may prep the videos prior to encoding in whatever way you like to help with encoding
    • Contrast boosting
    • Brightness changes
    • Colorspace conversions
    • Frame Rate changes
    • Resolution changes
    • Applying different filters
    • Audio changes/compression
    • etc.
  • You may NOT use an alternate source of the FMV. You must use the master files provided.
  • You may encode the videos in whatever codec you want using the encoding software you feel works best.
  • You may either use official tools or make your own.
  • You may split the videos into multiple videos if it makes encoding and playback easier.
  • You do not have to fit all your FMVs on one piece of media (They don't all have to fit on one disc or one cartridge)
  • The FMVs MUST run on real hardware.
  • Multiple Entries per platform are allowed and encouraged.
  • For now we are putting a cut off at 5th Gen consoles. Dreamcast and beyond tends to go beyond the focus of this as at that point all of those systems can do MPEG or better. Though I see no problem with including GBA and Nintendo DS.
The Master Sample files can be found here:

FMV Samples - Google Drive

Cheater Category:
  • Any entries that use additional non-stock hardware to help with FMV decoding fall into this category.
  • These entries will be judged separately from other entries
  • This includes but is not limited to the following:
    • Video CD Decoders (Saturn, 3DO, CD-i, Asia VCD PSX)
    • FPGAs in Flashcarts (Mega Everdrive, Mega SD, MSU-1, etc.)
    • RAM Expansion (N64 Expansion Pak, Saturn RAM Carts, etc.)
Judging:
For each FMV Sample the following titles will be awarded:
  • Best Overall Quality
  • Most Technically Impressive Video Specs (Ex: Overall Video Specs are impressive even if the results may not be great)
  • Most Technically Impressive for the Hardware (Ex: May not look the best but is very impressive considering hardware limitations)
  • Most Clever Use of Hardware Features
  • Potato Award (While it's technically video playing back, we've thrown any sense of acceptable quality out the window)
For each category each entry will be ranked from 1 to whatever the maximum number of entries is, where 1 is the highest.

Criteria for Best Overall Quality:
  • How much of the original video details survived the encoding process?
  • How intrusive are the compression artifacts (if there are any)?
  • How does it look and sound in it's intended viewing environment? (Ex: How does it look on a CRT over Composite?)
  • Audio Quality
  • Video Frame rate
  • Overall color depth
  • Video Resolution
Current Deadline:
January 31st, 2022

Judges:
  • Nick from PandaMonium Reviews Every U.S. Saturn Game
  • Patrick from the Sega Saturn Shiro Podcast
  • SaturnDave from the Sega Saturn Shiro Podcast
  • FilmCow
  • TBD

Entries should be submitted to this thread.
 
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TrekkiesUnite118

Established Member
For clarification on using Larger than standard cartridges. After discussing it with SNES devs, using a mapper or add-on chip is ok as long as all it's doing is just giving you a bigger ROM. If the chip is helping in anyway with Audio or Video playback, then it falls into the cheater category. So to boil it down:
  • Using MSU-1 or Mappers to just have a large ROM but video decoding and audio playback is handled entirely on the SNES = Ok.
  • Using MSU-1 and having it help with Audio playback with it's CD audio streaming capabilities = Cheater.
 

TrekkiesUnite118

Established Member
So here are my Submissions for Saturn Cinepak. I would recommend viewing these on a CRT, preferably using composite:

Animation Sample:

This was encoded at 23.97fps at 320x240 resolution. Audio is 16-bit Mono @ 22050Hz. I used the 320x480i mode and then applied a 1.5x scale. This displays the video in the original 16x9 aspect ratio in a 4:3 frame, however you get the benefit of the additional vertical resolution. I also used Gradation to help smooth out artifacts.

I recently discovered that Cinepak allows for variable framerates. So this significantly helps this sample out as I can change to 12fps for certain parts to get better compression results while still having 23.97fps for smooth motion in parts that held up well previously. So I've updated the submission to now use this version. The video now has a variable framerate between 12fps and 23.97fps at 320x240 resolution. Audio is still 16-bit 22050Hz, but is now in stereo due to the freed up bitrate. I used the 320x480i mode and then applied a 1.5x scale. This displays the video in the original 16x9 aspect ratio in a 4:3 frame, however you get the benefit of the additional vertical resolution. I also used Gradation to help smooth out artifacts.

The original 23.97fps submission can be found here: Haruhi-2.0

CGI Sample:

This was encoded at 19.98fps at 320x240 resolution. Audio is again 16-bit Mono @ 22050Hz. Again I used double interlace mode with a 1.5x scale to display the video in the correct aspect ratio. Gradation was also used to help smooth out artifacts. I went with the odd 19.98 frame rate because it seemed to give a nice balance between smoothness while having enough bit rate to not be full of artifacts. 24fps while Smoother had a lot more artifacts, and 15fps seemed a bit too choppy.

Live Action Sample:

This was encoded at 24fps at 320x240 resolution. Audio is again 16-bit Mono @ 22050 Hz. Even though this is 4:3, I felt double interlace mode made it look a bit better on a CRT so I kept that enabled and applied at 2x scale. Gradation is again used to smooth out artifacts.

Bad Apple:

This was encoded at 30fps at 320x240 resolution. Audio is 16-bit Stereo @ 22050Hz. Again I felt double interlace mode made it look better on a CRT so I kept it enabled with a 2x scale. Gradation is again used to smooth out artifacts.
 
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TrekkiesUnite118

Established Member
I have merged my submissions into one disc:


The video specs are the same as previously.

EDIT:
I realized I had Gradation cranked up too high on the CGI Sample so I turned it down a tad.

Real hardware recordings:
 
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TrekkiesUnite118

Established Member
Cheater Category Submission:
This is a simple Video CD image I made where all videos are encoded at bitrates that should be fine for a 2x speed drive. I tested it on my Saturn with a Video CD card and it played fine, in theory it should also play fine on a VCD Enabled 3DO or Playstation. I'm not sure what speed drive the CD-i has to know if it can handle it.


Since this is a standard video CD no resolution or VDP2 tricks can be done here, so for the 16x9 videos you'll need to stretch them as they're encoded anamorphically.

If I can find a way to get the build tools to accept an MPEG stream beyond VCD specs, I'll see if I can make a Saturn only version that uses the resolution tricks I did for the Cinepak submissions.

If for some reason the VCD image doesn't work, here are the raw MPEG files. You can use them to create a Video CD in the software of your choice. I personally used gBurner:
 
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CDi had a drive fast enough for VCD, and used (basically) the same video/audio format, but used its own disc format that relied on the next level down toward raw data on the CD. This meant that those discs didn't have error correction for the video, but they felt that the player should handle that in its own way (maybe by substituting the data from the previous frame to fill a gap that had uncorrected errors). I've got the official CDi two-disc boxset of Star Trek VI. With the proper file handler, the discs are playable on PCs and Macs (well, ones powerful enough to decoded MPEG1 video at least).

Oh, and what you want for the encoding to remove the VCD limits is to select SVCD settings. As computer power increased, it was possible to play VCDs with enhanced settings, so they came out with Super VCD discs that went beyond VCD while still keeping to MPEG1 and a CD format. I used to burn my own SVCDs until DVD made that obsolete.
 

TrekkiesUnite118

Established Member
Right, the files on that disc are encoded at 2000kbps for video and 224kbps for audio. That's a bit higher than VCD Spec and a 1x drive would probably struggle with them. So it's still pure MPEG-1 and at 352x240 resolution, so it's technically still a Video CD and on a Super Video CD. I think technically it's considered an XVCD.

For at least the Saturn we've found it can go up to at least 2000kbps for video since it's a 2x speed drive. It can also handle Variable Bitrate encoding. However it cannot handle resolutions beyond 352x240. I've actually tried to use code that plays MPEG files directly off a disc that isn't a Video CD and the decoder completely breaks if you try to to to say 640x480 or higher.
 

EmeraldNova

Pluto Supporter
I have hardware to load and play anything except 32X, 3DO, and CDI. If you need a provisional judge when others aren't available, I can volunteer.
 
The video specs are the same as previously.

EDIT:
I realized I had Gradation cranked up too high on the CGI Sample so I turned it down a tad.

Real hardware recordings:

Blech composite! :p Fantastic episode of TNG, IMO.

That aside, for the cheat edition on the Saturn... if the VCD decoder can't handle more than ~2000kbits, can you boost the quality of the audio? On a similar vein, could the SH-2s handle Layer III?
 

TrekkiesUnite118

Established Member
The bitrate limit isn't on what the decoder can handle. It's the data rate limit of the disc drive. As for the SH-2s, they aren't even involved with MPEG playback. It's all handled by the Video CD card. Which is why it's in the cheater category.
 
The bitrate limit isn't on what the decoder can handle. It's the data rate limit of the disc drive. As for the SH-2s, they aren't even involved with MPEG playback. It's all handled by the Video CD card. Which is why it's in the cheater category.
I figured a 2X would be able to push a little more than that, but I guess 2400 is a theoretical limit.

As far as MPEG goes, what I was asking was can you feed the VCD decoder MPEG-1 video, and split an audio stream off to be decoded in software (CPU, DSP, etc). Basically a custom player utilizing the VCD card for video decode only. But it would be pointless to attempt if you can't manage a ~96-128 kbit MP3. I've seen slow ancient Intel chips do it, but I am sure they had a heavily optimized decoder and a single thread to concern themselves with.
 

TrekkiesUnite118

Established Member
I figured a 2X would be able to push a little more than that, but I guess 2400 is a theoretical limit.

Max bitrate I can get on the Video CD Card is 2748kbps. Though it made very little difference going that high on most of these samples.

As far as MPEG goes, what I was asking was can you feed the VCD decoder MPEG-1 video, and split an audio stream off to be decoded in software (CPU, DSP, etc). Basically a custom player utilizing the VCD card for video decode only. But it would be pointless to attempt if you can't manage a ~96-128 kbit MP3. I've seen slow ancient Intel chips do it, but I am sure they had a heavily optimized decoder and a single thread to concern themselves with.

I fail to see what the point of this would be or what it would be trying to achieve.
 
Max bitrate I can get on the Video CD Card is 2748kbps. Though it made very little difference going that high on most of these samples.



I fail to see what the point of this would be or what it would be trying to achieve.
I guess if you're not seeing any gains going as high as 2748, there isn't much point. The point was to reduce the footprint of the audio, I was thinking with MPEG the drive speed would be a bottleneck. I guess at that low of a resolution there isn't much room for improvement, aside from maybe some real high action scenes here and there.
 

TrekkiesUnite118

Established Member
The audio is already compressed as MP2 at 224kbps. I can lower it down further if i want, it's just not going to give you anything noticeable at those minuscule values.
 
So here are my submissions! I have been working on these since Christmas. All of these examples are coded using the SGDK. I have a script setup to format the images, add dither, colour reduce, order the palettes, etc. My testing so far indicates to me that a max of 12.5 FPS with 31 colours at a resolution of 192x88 is probably the best I can do with the SGDK at present. However support for the extended SSF mapper with RESCOMP FAST compression (the SGDK resource compressor) isn't 100% perfect yet, so for the most part my submissions are 7.5 FPS split ROMs. Maybe one day I'll have SSF mapper single rom files with 12.5 FPS! I have stuck a couple of 12.5 FPS examples in to my submission to show what the next step up will be!

Animation Sample:
The 7.5 FPS version runs at 200 x 104 with 30 colours and ADPCM 4bit 13Hhz audio.


The 12.5 FPS version runs at 192 x 88 with 30 colours and ADPCM 4bit 13Hhz audio.


CGI Sample:
For this video I have 200x104 with 30 colours, 7.5FPS and ADPCM 4bit 13Hhz audio. I struggled with the audio on this one it doesn't downgrade particularly well. The audio picks up later into the video tho!


Live Action Sample:
For this video I have 168x128 with 30 colours, 7.5FPS and ADPCM 4bit 13Hhz audio.


I have one example of it running at 152x112 with 30 colours, 12.5 FPS and ADPCM 4bit 13Hhz audio:


Bad Apple:
For this video I have 168x128 with 30 colours, 7.5FPS and ADPCM 4bit 13Hhz audio. Colour wise it was processed for 30 but never goes above 7 colours!

 
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